With the passing of President Ronald Reagan, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has lost a true friend.
President Reagan knew and loved the Latter-day Saints, and held the Church in highest regard.
From his days as governor of California, the doctrines and the principles of the Church drew his frequent interest. As president he often asked about Church programs.
Touring the Church's Ogden Utah Welfare Cannery, President Gordon B. Hinckley explained Church welfare to him. With his trademark smile President Reagan answered he already knew about the welfare program from what he'd observed in California, and then lamented admiringly, "Oh that our federal welfare worked so perfectly."
His relationship with God was personal and deep. He loved America, and often spoke of its divine purposes and the inspired origins of its Constitution. At one meeting when visiting Church headquarters, he tenderly shared those sentiments with Church leaders.
Rigorously against communism, he knew the essential value of individual agency to a free and vibrant society. Every individual was important to him. Once when exiting an elevator in a Salt Lake City hotel, he walked about ten steps and then turned around. Those of us with him wondered where he was going. He returned to the elevator and shook hands with the elevator operator, and apologized for not stopping to shake hands on the way out.
In a non-partisan manner, leaders of the Church were his welcome guests. Church Presidents Spencer W. Kimball, Ezra Taft Benson and Gordon B. Hinckley were each warmly received into the Oval Office with respect and friendship.
Ronald Reagan truly admired the Latter-day Saints. His administration included more members of the Church than any other American president, ever.
Three of us, David Fischer, Gregory Newell and I, served on his personal White House staff. Richard Wirthlin was his chief strategist. Ted Bell served as Secretary of Education, Angela Buchanan was Treasurer, Rex Lee was Solicitor General. His White House included Roger Porter, Brent Scowcroft, Richard Beal, Blake Parish, Jon Huntsman Jr., Dodie Borup and Rocky Kuonen, and there were many other Latter-day Saints throughout his Administration. President Thomas S. Monson served on a Presidential Commission on Volunteerism. Others were ambassadors. LDS senators and representatives were held in special regard, and the Tabernacle Choir was his special inaugural guest.
He customarily ended many speeches by saying, "God Bless America." It would be appropriate for us today to gratefully say, "God Bless America, and Ronald Reagan."
Stephen M. Studdert served as Special Assistant to President Reagan.